Felicia Levine, Volunteer Expressive Writing Instructor
Felicia Levine is the Director of Development for Mary’s Place by the Sea, and volunteers as an Expressive Writing Instructor. Felicia began her journey with Mary’s Place four years ago, when she and her husband, Andy, moved to Ocean Grove, New Jersey. An avid tennis player, Felicia attended a trip to the US Open with other Mary’s Place volunteers and supporters. Upon hearing about the mission of Mary’s Place by the Sea, Felicia immediately felt drawn to the organization. She became a house volunteer the following week, and quickly joined the team as an employee.
“Although I am now in the office, I know I need to stay connected to the mission, by being engaged with the guests who come here on a regular basis. I wanted to identify a way I could help the guests of Mary’s Place, given my own skill set”.
As a Political Science Major in college, Felicia wrote "papers, upon papers, upon papers"; she also has two graduate degrees, making her intimately familiar with the written word. Felicia also practices journaling and writing in her personal time. Prior to moving to Ocean Grove, Felicia was a Pastoral Associate at a Catholic church in Scotch Plains, where she was responsible for adult programming. Among many other responsibilities, her role included helping groups and individuals through times of bereavement and grief. This experience, coupled with her passion for service, makes Felicia the perfect fit for her role as the Expressive Writing Instructor.
“I feel we are all called to serve in whatever capacity we can; I am trying to use the skills given to me, in order to serve.”
Given her experience, Felicia felt convicted that a more formal writing and journaling program would be a restorative modality for guests of Mary’s Place by the Sea. That belief led her to Duke University last spring, where she took a course at the school of Integrative Medicine, to become a certified instructor of “Leading Patients in Writing for Health”.
Over the past six months, the response to the expressive writing sessions has been extremely positive. While there are times when guests are hesitant to attempt the modality, Felicia assures them that the exercise is not so much about what they write, as it is about the act of writing. Through several exercises, participants become more comfortable writing out their thoughts in stream-of-consciousness. The process allows guests to express themselves in a new and important way.
"Every session someone shares something about how they never really looked at themselves from that point of view. They are so busy with other things - their families, their jobs, their treatment, getting to appointments - they never really think about how their diagnosis affected them. This is a new way to express themselves, and for many of them it is the first time. I am always humbled because they share things that they have never shared, admitted, or even addressed with anyone, including themselves.”
Felicia is always interested to see how each individual will respond to the program. Mary’s Place by the Sea offers several modalities, many which help guests heal from the outside in. Expressive Writing focuses on the inside of the person, and deals with the healing of the mind and soul.
“It's an opportunity to make the implicit explicit, and it gives another avenue for healing. It is another way to address an issue that they’ve had inside, so it gives them another way of looking at things…. Once you express it, once you put it down on paper, you can decide where to put those emotions or feelings. It is another form of healing."
Felicia believes that teaching this modality has benefited her personally, and improved her own life perspective.
“[Teaching Expressive Writing] Keeps me grounded. There isn’t anything that’s too difficult or too insurmountable in my life. It’s important for me and my faith to give back, and that’s what I hope to do.”